Examination of Witness (Questions 1 -
WEDNESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2002
Chairman: Good afternoon, Miss Hoey, we do have
one piece of domestic organisation to get out of the way if you
will just forgive us. Is there anyone who has a declaration to
George Stevenson: George Stevenson, Member of the
Transport and General Workers Union.
Chairman: Gwyneth Dunwoody, member of the Rail Maritime
Brian Donohoe: Brian Donohoe, member of the Transport
and General Workers Union. Louise Ellman:
Louise Ellman, member of the Transport and General
Robert Syms: Robert Syms, interest in the family
business with some interest in road haulage.
Graham Stringer: Graham Stringer, member of MSF.
Clive Efford: Member of the Transport and General
1. Thank you. Now, Miss Hoey, I know you are
very concerned about the whole question of the Charging Scheme
which is to be brought in. I have heard you being very eloquent
on it in the Chamber of the House of Commons. We are grateful
that you have come to give us evidence today. Can I ask you what
evidence you actually have that key workers are going to give
up their jobs rather than switch from cars to public transport?
(Kate Hoey) Thank you very much for giving me the
opportunity. On that specific question I have done a survey recently
of all my schools within the congestion zone, that is four primary
schools, one nursery and two secondary schools. Every single one
of those schools in various ways have told me of teachers they
know who are going to leave when the congestion charging starts
and of their concern at the effects of retaining staff and recruiting
staff. It is very difficult to get staff in some of the Inner
City schools. I have even heard one of the head teachers who is
now saying quite clearly that she will have to leave. Many of
the more experienced teachers have always driven and have always
seen that as something which is very necessary to their way of
working in the school. I am also very concerned about some of
the housing officers in the area and many of the other public
servant workers who cannot possibly ever afford to live in Inner
London and travel. Some of them are working very anti-social hours,
particularly because I have St Thomas' Hospital in my constituency.
Although there have been some exemptions which will help some
of the more specific medical staff, they are very specially and
very narrowly defined. Just one example where the nursery at St
Thomas' with 42 childrenhoping to expand soonfrom
key workers in hospital, all of whom drive, and now are being
told that they will have to pay the congestion charge, which works
out at a substantial amount of money. They are already beginning
to say that they will have to take their children elsewhere. They
cannot possibly get on the tube or come on the bus with their
2. How many people have indicated to you in
other services? Do you know what percentage of teachers drive
in the Borough?
(Kate Hoey) Within my own zone at on particular primary
school, half the teachers drive. Another one has four out of seven
who drive. But, of course, it is not just the full-time teaching
staff, it is the part-time teaching staff and, very importantly,
the support staff, many of whom work at that school because they
are able to drop their children off somewhere else. Some of them
may, of course, decide they would have to come by public transportat
great inconvenience, they feel, because they carry things and
because of the anti-social hoursbut many of them will just
say, unfortunately, "Sorry, but we are going to find a school
nearer where we live".
3. What alternatives to congestion charges would
you use to raise the funds that are needed to improve public transport
(Kate Hoey) The problem is that there is not going
to be very much raised through congestion charges, certainly at
the beginning. My view is that we should not be introducing congestion
charging until, first of all, we have actually got some improvement
in public transport. I had a letter just this week from someone
who waits every morning at Clapham North tube to go to Bank and
every morning has to wait for three, sometimes four, tubes to
go past. She is in favour of congestion charging, but she said
to me, quite strongly, "How on earth am I going to get on
the tube if even a small number of people stop driving their cars?"
4. How would your raise the funds?
(Kate Hoey) I personally would not introduce congestion
charging until public transport has been seen to be improved;
there is some improvement in the bus service, but there is no
short-term solution to the Underground. Of course, as you know,
the financing of that is now settled, but that is going to take
some time before we will see any improvement. The crucial thing
so far as Kennington is concerned is that, even if you were in
favour of congestion charging, where the boundary has been drawn
is just a nonsense. It has been put through the heart of a community
which is going to be completely divided now. It is a very narrow
road; there are only two lanes the whole waya very narrow
two lanesit is the only part of the zone right round London,
apart from one section, that is two lane. It is completely dividing
up the community.
Tom Brake: I do not disagree, but you have not
actually answered my question which is about where you would raise
the funds to make the transport improvements.
Chairman: Actually we are here to ask about
the effect. We have a very short time. Mrs Ellman?
5. Could the problems that you have identified
be resolved by wider exemptions?
(Kate Hoey) I think that there is a really strong
case for those crucial Inner City public sector workerslike
teachers, like some of our care attendants in some of the social
services offices, some of the key workers in our housing offices
where we cannot get staffto be exempted. Certainly there
is room for a lot more exemption when it comes to hospitals. I
think the Mayor, understandably perhaps from his point of view,
has wanted to keep the exemptions as few as possible. But as we
get nearer to the congestion charge being introduced more and
more people are actually beginning to understand the effects on
them and the effects are not just on people who drive cars. That
is what I feel is very important that this Committeealthough
it is not all your responsibilityunderstands.
6. How widespread is knowledge about congestion
charging amongst your constituents?
(Kate Hoey) I personally think that the consultation
was a bit of a sham. Yes, of course, the Mayor talked a lot about
it and there was discussion in the media, but in reality the consultation
in Kennington was one large meeting in which people made it very
clear they did not want the boundary and they wanted a lot of
changes. They did not get any changes to that. It is only now,
I expect, that some people will say that the responses to the
consultation showed whatever per centage in support. I think the
tendency was the people who supported congestion charges and knew,
as a principle, they were in favour of it answered the responses.
What we are saying now is that more and more people are beginning
to understand it. In all the housing estates just over the River
in my constituency many elderly people have a car; they do not
use it that much; they pay so much per week to park it in their
garage or on the estate in a residential parking space. If they
are going to take that out, even for a day, for an emergency,
perhaps they have to take somebody to the hospital or something
happens, not even to do their shopping because they might wait
to do that on Saturdays, they are going to have to pay £2.50,
an extra £2.50 just to keep their car, living in what they
thought was a community that they could move around in. It is
not a question of people coming into London who are obviously
going to pay the £5.00 coming from way out, but here are
people living in London who use their car on a daily basis perhapsor
every other dayto do something within their community.
The whole way that it has been thought through has not taken into
any account the concerns of communities. This is coming from the
Mayor whom, I thought, actually cared about communities.
7. Do you think it is possible for the boundary
problems to be resolved in relation to Kennington without setting
a precedent that would jeopardise the whole of the scheme?
(Kate Hoey) I think it is interesting when you explore
with other witnesses why that boundary was chosen. I do not think
any real thought went into it. I think it was expedient; it was
there; it sort of created what would be seen as a natural inner
motorway round London (although it is not a motorway, as I said,
it is small) and I think what should have happened, if congestion
charging was going to be introduced, is that it should have been
started in a much, much smaller area right in what would be seen
as the very centre of London, Trafalgar Square, what I would call
Inner City area. I think what upsets the people of Kennington
is that they are being told that the congestion charge boundary
is going through their community and yet Harrodswhich to
most people outside London would be seen as very much central
Londonis outside the zone. Between now and February I think
it is impossible to look at the zone, but what certainly will
happen is that there will be much more traffic on that road and
those people just outside the zone will have to put up with a
huge amount of extra traffic for no benefit whatsoever because
they cannot even get on the tube if they went along to get on
8. The concern I have is, that whilst you may
clear up central roads for buses, a lot of the people who use
buses in central London, who come through your constituency, come
from outer areas through into the centre. If you get displacement
of traffic from the centre into the outer areas you are going
to get congestion junctions and so forth. Have you looked at all
at the congestion issue just outside the charging area and the
potential impact on public transport as well as motorists?
(Kate Hoey) As I mentioned, at Clapham North and Clapham
Common it is practically impossible to get on the tube in the
morning without waiting some time.
9. On the roads particularly?
(Kate Hoey) I was talking to someone just two nights
ago, a very, very good community worker working in Stockwell,
who travels every day from north London and in order to avoid
paying the £5 (she works incredibly anti-social hours, has
been there for eight years and has done a fantastic job) she is
either going to have to go an extra half hour at least to go right
round and circle roundshe has worked out a route that she
can do which will take about 35 minutes longer and go through
all these little streets and go round to get there, or she moves
to work in a place nearer. That is what is going to happen. It
is a natural instinct. If you cannot go the way you have always
gone you will find a way that gets round that. Yes, of course,
there are schemes that we could put in to have traffic free zones
and no entries and so on, but all of that, in the end, breaks
down your community again so that it becomes almost chaotic.
10. Has the Mayor managed to create significant
through bus routes as he originally talked about, or are we still
really looking at short lengths of bus lane punctuated by fully
(Kate Hoey) Because of all the works that are going
on at the moment, I know from two of my own staff who use the
bus coming up every morning from that part of south London that
it is completely touch and go every morning how long it will take
because the bus lanes do not go the whole way and because of the
other problems that are happening. The congestion is happening
at blocks and junctions and the buses get stopped so bus journeys
at the moment are taking longer as well, I think, on average.
11. You talk about key workers in the public
sector, but clearly there are also key workers in the private
sector in central London, some of whom I suspect live just outside
in your patch who may well be affected in the same way. The danger,
surely, of going purely down the public sector route is that it
is not purely public sector workers who are key workers and potentially
(Kate Hoey) No, except that I suppose the kind of
workers I am looking at are people who are on the whole perhapsit
is not true all the timemore likely to be lower paid workers.
The reality is that for many people in the city this tax is not
going to make the slightest bit of difference; somebody will pay
it for them. I do not suppose it affects MP's either. That is
the unfairness of it. It is a regressive tax. It is hitting those
people who have struggled hard with their small business that
need a car or need something to carry around their window cleaning
materials; it is hitting them incredibly hard and they are the
ones who are going to suffer. Small businesses will simply pass
the cost to everyone else. So everyone will pay for congestion
12. That is very helpful. Just one final question.
Do you find it difficult in your Borough within the zone we are
talking about to recruit staff? Are there existing vacancies within
the public sector?
(Kate Hoey) Very much so. Certainly it is difficult
to attract, at the level of pay that there is and the hassle there
is people are not choosing very easily to come forward for those
key jobs. This will make it much worse.
Chairman: We are very grateful to you and it
has been extremely helpful. Thank you. Would the next set of witnesses
like to take their places.